Legislation overview

There is no one statute specifically and exclusively covering the issue of stress in the workplace. Legal duties arising form the law of negligence and express or implied terms in the contract of employment are relevant to stress claims. The law governing stress has, in the main, evolved from case law rather than legislation - see the related Q&A on what legal duties do employees use to base stress claims on.

However, examples of legislation which have a potential impact on this area include:

  • the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
  • the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (SI 1999/3242) and
  • the disability discrimination provisions of the Equality Act 2010.

The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 has also been used to claim compensation in cases of stress-related suicides by employees. The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 has also been used in some extreme cases of harassment leading to stress and depression.

At a European Union (EU) level, current legislation under the European framework directive 89/391 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the health and safety of workers at work covers work-related stress and its causes, in addition to other risks to health and safety. The EU social partners have also signed a framework voluntary agreement on stress.

Q: What is stress and is it a problem in the UK workplace?

Q: What legal duties do employees use to base stress claims on?

Q: What is the level of compensation for stress related claims?

Q: Is any level of stress sufficient to warrant a claim and how foreseeable does the disorder have to be?

Q: How pro-active should an employer be to take steps to avoid stress-related claims?

Q: Can an employee whose complaint of stress has been ignored by their employer resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal as well as compensation in negligence and contract?

Q: If an employee is stressed and undergoes an examination in what circumstances is the employer entitled to see their medical report?

Q: Could an employee claim disability discrimination when absent for a stress-related condition?

Q: What action can an employer take to avoid stress-related claims?

Q: Does offering a counselling service guarantee a successful defeat of any stress-related claims?

Q: Are there any future developments expected in the area of stress?

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